Purplebricks’ and Foxtons’ apparent success on Trustpilot have come under scrutiny in a Times newspaper analysis of the review platform.
The Times’ Saturday edition says estate agents generally, along with some banks, have been accused of gaming Britain’s biggest consumer feedback website by paying it to help gain better review scores.
The newspaper has analysed almost 200,000 reviews on Trustpilot and says some companies appear to jump from a very small number of bad responses one month to hundreds of positive reviews the next.
It says: “The biggest companies pay Trustpilot, which generated revenues of almost £40m in 2017, tens of thousands of pounds a year to access its marketing services. Subscribers can use the company’s technology to filter the reviews they place on their own website or corporate Facebook pages, allowing customers to read only favourable posts.
“They also have the ability to send customers unlimited email invitations with Trustpilot’s logo and embedded technology that makes it easy to post reviews. These can be sent before people have had a full chance to experience the service they have bought, such as those who have bought travel insurance before a holiday. Invitations sometimes include incentives to post a review, including the chance to win prizes.”
The analysis by The Times found that in August 2016, Foxtons received only five reviews on Trustpilot, with an average score of only 2.2 stars out of five. “The following month Foxtons was reviewed 467 times with almost 90 per cent of the reviews generating five stars” the newspaper reports.
It goes on to say: “The online estate agent Purplebricks, which cut revenue forecasts last month leading to its shares falling by more than a third, has 62,000 Trustpilot reviews and a score of 9.5 out of ten. By comparison, Countrywide, one of Britain’s largest estate agents, has only 123 reviews and a score of one out of ten. Countrywide is not a paying subscriber to Trustpilot but Purplebricks is.”
Trustpilot has told The Times that it has zero tolerance to such tactics and has invested to eradicate the practice.
The Times also says “Trustpilot is failing to remove reviews with identical text” and admits that its systems are not perfect.
“It has since removed dozens of duplicate reviews, including examples that relate to Purplebricks and Foxtons” says the paper.
Purplebricks has told The Times: “We are categorically not inflating Trustpilot reviews. The high number we have is an indicator of our scale and success.”
Foxtons says: “Our high Trustpilot scores are a reflection of our high service levels and the good results we deliver for customers. We comply with all Trustpilot guidelines and strongly refute any suggestion that our scores are misleading or have been artificially inflated.”
And The Times reports Trustpilot itself saying that it has a zero tolerance to misuse of its platform, and employs more than 50 people full-time and technology to weed out suspicious reviews.
You can see the report here, although to some readers it may be behind a paywall.
Estate Agent Today has asked Purplebricks and Foxtons if they have any additional comment now that The Times story has been published.